Mexican super club Cruz Azul, aka "The Machine", reclaimed their seat at the top of Mexican football following a stellar 2018 season. Here’s the story of their rise to the top and three key areas where video analysis supported their renewed success.
Cruz Azul are one the most highly-supported teams in the land, with a decorated history including eight Primera División titles. On the continent, their six wins makes them the second most successful club in the history of the CONCACAF Champions League, the most prestigious international club competition in North American football.
For those new to Mexican football, each season Liga MX holds two tournaments: The Apertura, which starts in the summer, and the Clausura, which starts in the winter, with the top eight sides contesting the Liguilla - a playoff series in which the top eight teams contest a knockout tournament to decide an overall winner.
Before last season was a great success for the Mexico City side - finishing first in the regular season of the Apertura championship. Besides, that same season after goals from Elias Hernandez and Martin Cauteruccio, the club won the Copa MX.
Head coach Pedro Caixinha was instrumental in his side’s turnaround from mid-table to table-toppers, and transferred his previous success in Liga MX as coach of the 2014 and 2015 Clausura winning Santos Laguna team to Cruz Azul.
Whilst on-field success was the most visible transformation under Caixinha, it came as the result of a number of enhancements made behind-the-scenes as video analysis became a focal point of team preparations. Cruz Azul head of sports intelligence Daniel Martinez explains the role his team plays.
“Here in this department, our role is to provide the videos to the coaching team,” said Martinez. “There are three moments when we provide information, the first is before the match. In the week we use Sportscode to precisely record training sessions and code the exercises, not just depending on what we want to do, but also depending on what the opponent is going to bring.”
“But also so we can upload these videos to the group page (in Hudl) so that all the players have access to the exercises in training.”
“Applying the tool has been very, very simple.”
Assistant coach Pedro Malta explains the second functionality of video at Cruz Azul - analysis on match day,
“My main role is essentially to analyse our opponents to help analyse our performance in terms of team tactics,” said Malta. “We use video on match day where Daniel and I work at the same time to code the match in real time. I focus on the more strategic aspect at points that might be different to what was expected, and Daniel focuses on the more individual aspect in terms of individual actions and moments in the game.”
Every match throws up its own challenges, both in terms of tactics and individual performances which need to be constantly reviewed. After recording the data during the live match environment, the Cruz Azul analysis team can then provide relevant findings to coaches and players in order to make the necessary tactical changes.
“We take it to the dressing room at half-time,” explains Martinez. “Analysis of a player, analysis of a zone or a line, I can know all this straight away and have it ready. So that not just the verbal information, but also the visual information, so the result of this information is more specific.”
Successful teams never rest on their laurels, and the work using video doesn’t end at the full-time whistle. A full breakdown of the match is provided to players to constantly push team and individual standards forwards.
“The third moment is after the match,” says Malta. “Practising more in technical and individual terms, in tactical, sector-specific or collective terms, is done individually for all the players.
And then it feeds into the next match. So it's all cyclical and it's all part of the process.”